Race and Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians

Article excerpt

Race and Well-Being: The Lives, Hopes, and Activism of African Canadians by Carl James, David Este, Wanda Thomas Bernard, Akua Benjamin, Bethan Lloyd and Tana Turner. Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood, 2010, 213 pp, 978-1-55266354-7.

This book comes out of a five-year community-based study titled: the Racism, Violence and Health Project. It examines the impacts of racism and violence on the health and well-being of African Canadians. Using Black and African-Canadian interchangeably, the study covers three Canadian cities seen as revealing the diversities of Blacks in Canada. Halifax represents a small city with a longestablished Black community spanning several generations. Calgary represents a mid-sized city with a fast-growing, first-generation Black population, primarily newcomers from Africa. Toronto represents a large city with the largest Black population in Canada, primarily first and second-generation immigrants from the Caribbean. Authors identify themselves as members of these communities and speak from a space of shared experience but they also make sure Black experiences are not homogenized and the rich diversity of their voices is not flattened out. To foster particularities, they craft the project strategically with a focus on capacity building where 300 African-Canadian students, educators, community organizers and activists participated as co-investigators. This team then reached out to members of the three broad communities as well as other key informants and recruited 900 research participants. Using mixed methods, they generated rich details of lived experiences through in-depth, key-informant, qualitative interviews, and produced abstractions and broader comparisons through quantitative analyses.

Organizing the book into seven chapters, authors walk readers through contested terrains of the so called "Black experience" in Canada. The introduction maps out the lay of the land by providing background and rationale. Chapter one articulates a conceptual framework, woven from notions of anti-Black racism and theories of critical race and critical hope rooted in Afrocentric philosophy and interpretive research orientation. Chapter two provides historical trajectories of racism and resilience from the first African presence in Canada through the various Black settlements, to the current struggles of Blacks in Calgary, Halifax and Toronto. Chapters three and four zero in on racism and its multiple manifestations, situating it within broader webs of power relations, signifying it as violence, and stressing its intimate interconnections with other forms of violence and injustice. Chapters five and six highlight the subtle and blatant ways in which racialized violence disrupts the health and well-being of African Canadians and the various strategies people develop to cope and heal. …